|Daily Blog •August 6, 2011|
It has come to my attention that many of my most avid readers also play college fantasy football, and this sure seems like a match made in heaven. Statistical analysis and prognostication, my specialties, are the key components of a successful college fantasy football campaign. And as we continue to provide the most thorough and accurate college football analysis, the loyal readers of PhilSteele.com can also look forward to a weekly look at the top college fantasy football players across the nation similar to what we did last year. (Check the blog archives). We’ll provide the data needed to compete in your BCS or conference-only league, and with the help of my friends CollegeFootballGeek.com you’ll be privy to the insider information needed to dominate and hoist the trophy at season’s end.
Here are the 2011 College Fantasy Football Sleepers courtesy of Todd DeVries and Joe Arpasi of CollegeFootballGeek.com
What is the definition of a college fantasy football sleeper? The answer lies in the eye of the beholder. Someone new to the fantasy game might consider a player from a smaller school like Western Michigan (quarterback Alex Carder) to be a sleeper, while the savvy fantasy vet would know that Carder is already a proven fantasy commodity.
For the sake of this article, let’s define a sleeper loosely as someone that probably won’t be drafted in the first half of your fantasy draft. Some of the guys on our list below will be undervalued on draft day and are certainly worthy of a back half selection, some might make a nice final round flier, and others are simply names to stash away on your waiver wire watch list.
“Sleeper” could be the most overused word in Fantasy Football. That being said we all love to hear it. We look at the word as basically meaning "guys we want to get on our teams" and break it into a few categories:
1 – “OUR GUYS”– These are guys we just like and want on our teams. They are guys who usually possess a lot of potential upside and/or we trust to get it done week in and week out for us. We call these “Our Guys” and our plan is to reach for them one or two rounds earlier than normal to make sure they're on all of our teams. We just have a good feeling for them and we're trying to make these guys our "core" for this year.
2 – UNDERVALUED - A player who we feel is somewhat “Undervalued”. That could mean he's a 2nd round pick, but we think his stats would prove worthy of a 1st. Usually it just means that we are higher, and in many cases considerably higher on this player than the general public.
3 – LONG SHOTS- The classic definition of the word Sleeper… Long shots that most people have barely heard of yet we think have a shot to make something happen. These guys are usually reserved for the latter half of the draft or your last few roster spots as long shots. They also could be guys that are young and we think could be on the verge of a breakout season -- but do not burn an early or mid-round pick on.
Our goal is to get as many of these guys on our teams as possible, knowing full well that many won't work out. In fact, it's quite possible that half of these players won't pan out. But those that do will be considered steals.
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois (Our Guy)
Scheelhaase is a guy that finished the 2010 season as a top 40 fantasy quarterback in All-FBS leagues. The Illinois offense is not your modern-pass happy style offense. Instead they are more of a ground-n-pound scheme that utilizes the playaction passing game. In 2010 Scheelhaase racked up 1,825 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and 8 interceptions to go along with his 868 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. Scheelhaase did all of this as a freshman. It’s not impossible for Scheelhaase to reach 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing. If the offense continues to improve and he can stay healthy, these numbers could become a reality.
Scheelhaase loses 2010 leading rusher Mikel Leshoure, but this opens the door for more rushing production as new starter Jason Ford works into the line-up. He does have his leading receiver from 2010 coming back in A.J. Jenkins to help boost his pass efficiency statistics. If he can cut down on his interceptions, it's not too much of a stretch to consider Scheelhaase as a top 20 quarterback in all-120 leagues, or a top 12 quarterback in BCS-only leagues. Scheduling note: Scheelhaase's first six games are mighty juicy, but in the back half of the year he'll face some solid Big Ten defenses.
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (Our Guy)
After serving behind starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, it’s now Logan Thomas’ time to shine in Blacksburg. Besides losing Taylor, Tech also lost two of its top three running backs from 2010 as Darren Evans and Ryan Williams left for the NFL. Those two combined with Taylor accounted for 1,990 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. This leaves a very large hole to fill, but it may also be a blessing in disguise for Thomas’ fantasy value.
David Wilson will be the team’s starting running back in 2011. The previous season he only averaged a touchdown every 22.6 carries. This was very low compared to Evans’ 13.7 carries and Williams’ 12.2 carries. Wilson is 5’10” 201 pounds while Logan Thomas is 6’6” 245 pounds. There is a distinct possibility that Thomas may siphon off rushing touchdown opportunities from Wilson, but to what degree is too difficult to tell. Thomas enjoys a non-conference schedules chock full o’ baby seals. He has tremendous upside.
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (Undervalued)
Wilson has had little playing time while standing in the tall shadow of Ryan Mallett. But when Mallett missed the week 7 game with Auburn last fall, Wilson gave us a glimpse of what is to come in 2011. In a 65-43 losing effort, he threw for 332 yards with four scores and two interceptions against one of the better pass rushes the SEC had to offer.
Arkansas is receiving a lot of preseason attention in 2011 due to the large amount of starters returning. Bruising runner Knile Davis is back and his strong presence will force defenses to place receivers in one-on-one situations. The question for defenses will be deciding which Arkansas receiver to place in one-on-one coverage? Arkansas returns all three of their top receivers from 2010 in Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, and Greg Childs. These three combined for 2,260 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Wilson has an army of weapons at his disposal, and only two difficult SEC road games at Alabama in week 4 and at LSU in week 13.
Tino Sunseri, Pittsburgh (Undervalued)
Sunseri started as a sophomore in 2010, but the offense struggled with a rebuilt offensive line, and he took his lumps going through a “trial by fire.” Despite the offensive struggles he was still able to rack up 2,680 total yards and 18 total touchdowns. But when head coach Dave Wannstedt was shown the door and new head coach Todd Graham wound up on campus, the fantasy stars began to align for Sunseri.
Graham spent the past four seasons as the head coach at Tulsa. Despite losing offensive coordinator Chad Morris to Clemson, he still brought his high-octane offense to western Pennsylvania. During the spring Sunseri showed glimpses of being an effective dual threat quarterback, but how durable he will be in the Big East conference is still yet to be seen. Despite losing running back Dion Lewis and wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin to the NFL draft, there is plenty of young talent ready to step in for Pitt. Sunseri’s fantasy success with hinge on how well he can cut down on interceptions, and how well an offensive line built for a pro style system can adapt to the fast-paced spread offense of Todd Graham.
Brock Osweiler (Undervalued)
The Sun Devils’ offense showed signs of improvement in 2010, upping their passing yardage from 215 per game up to 285 and scoring ten more points per game (22.3 to 32.3). There are reasons to believe this is the start of something really good in Tempe. And the man who will running the show in 2011 is Brock Osweiler. He played in limited time last fall, passing for 797 yards with a 5-0 TD-INT ratio.
Last year’s starter, Steven Threet, left the team due to multiple concussions. This offseason, Osweiler decided to skip the basketball season and focus solely on football. With an offense that returns 8 starters (including a veteran offensive line), there is an excellent chance they improve upon their 3,437 passing yards and 23 touchdowns from a year ago. Add in some sneaky rushing ability, and Osweiler becomes an intriguing fantasy sleeper candidate
Tajh Boyd, Clemson (Undervalued)
Boyd enters the 2011 season as the starting quarterback after serving the previous season as the primary backup to Kyle Parker. The most exciting news of the offseason for Clemson was the hiring of Chad Morris as the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. In 2010 Morris served as the offensive coordinator at fantasy powerhouse Tulsa. Tulsa ranked 13th nationally in passing offense and 15th in rushing offense. Tulsa also ranked 5th in the country in total offense and 8th in points scored per game.
Boyd’s dual threat talents fit the new offensive scheme perfectly, and his ability to gain production on the ground helps raise his fantasy value when compared to strictly passing quarterbacks. He will receive help in the running game from Andre Ellington, and he has the top three receiving targets back from 2010 in DeAndre Hopkins, Jaron Brown, and Dwayne Allen. So not only can Boyd get things done on the ground, but he has plenty of returning tools to distribute the ball to in the air as well. Boyd will need to work on his accuracy, though. He struggled in this department during the spring.
MarQueis Gray, MInnesota (Long Shot)
Gray arrived in Minneapolis two years ago as one of the Gophers’ biggest recruiting coups in a decade. He is a 6’4 229-pound dual threat, the kind of athlete that makes fantasy owners drool. But instead of giving Gray a shot, the coaching staff continued to start the steady Adam Weber at quarterback. Gray saw some time in the Wildcat package, and was eventually moved over to wide receiver (42 receptions for 587 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2010).
Minnesota hired former Northern Illinois head coach Jerry Kill to run the ship in 2011. Kill did wonders with mobile quarterback Chandler Harnish while at NIU. Harnish passed for 2,530 yards and 21 touchdowns last year, while adding 836 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Gray is a better athlete than Harnish, but he plays in a much more rugged offense and still needs to learn the new offense. Gray is a raw talent who will show flashes of brilliance this fall. Consider him as a long shot sleeper in BCS-only leagues.
Jeff Tuel, Washington State (Long Shot)
Never heard of Jeff Tuel? We don’t blame you. It’s tough to get any sort of notoriety when your team has gone 5-32 over the past three seasons. But you’d be wise to brush up on this Wazzu signal caller. As a sophomore in 2010, he quietly passed for 2,780 yards and 18 touchdowns, while chipping in with 204 rushing yards and another score.
The offense returns seven starters, including rising star wide receiver Marquess Wilson. The beautiful thing about drafting someone like Tuel is that his team is always going to be passing the ball in come-from-behind mode. This will lead to numerous fantasy garbage point opportunities. Tuel is another guy to strongly consider in the late rounds of a BCS-only fantasy format.
Alex Carder, Western Michigan (Our Guy)
Carder had to follow in the footsteps of WMU great Tim Hiller who threw for 3,258 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2009. Although Carder had little game experience he picked up where Hiller left off in 2010. Carder passed for 3,334 yards, 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also racked up 226 yards on the ground with six rushing scores. Not bad for an untested sophomore.
For 2011 much of the experience at receiver has graduated. He does have his leading receiver back in Jordan White, and Robert Arnheim is poised for a breakout season. But just like last season, there is no rusher that stands apart from the rest. This ensures that Carder’s rushing production won’t get eaten into much. Carder is likely to go later than the other elite fantasy quarterbacks on draft day, making him a perfect guy to wait for in your draft.
Kolton Browning, UL-Monroe (Undervalued)
When fall camp opened in 2010 it was returning starter Trey Revell that many people expected to see starting under center. But the play of redshirt freshman Browning caught the eye of the coaches and he unseated the senior as the starting quarterback. Browning proved his coaches made a wise decision as he accumulated 2,552 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, and 12 picks on the year. He also led the team in rushing attempts with 171 that resulted in 385 yards and four touchdowns.
Browning has an army of returning talent at receiver for the 2011 season. His top four receivers from 2010 will be back in action for 2011. The key loss is running back Frank Goodin. He has been the team’s go-to guy on the ground, and his absence will open the door for Browning to have the ball in his hands more this season. Look for the coaches to really center the offense around this evolving star. One word of caution: the non-confernence schedule is a doozy at ULM must travel to Florida State, TCU and Iowa.
Kriss Proctor, Navy (Undervalued)
Navy’s Ricky Dobbs was a fantasy star for the past two seasons. Now the starting job is in the hands capable hands of Proctor’s, and te dropoff from the Dobbs era might not be as steep as some would suggest. Proctor spent 2010 as a back-up, but he did give us a glimpse of what to expect in 2011. Against Central Michigan he racked up 234 total yards and one score.
Although Proctor will be new under center, there are plenty of seasoned veterans surrounding himm chief among them are Alexander Teich and Gee Gee Greene in the backfield. But the key for Proctor in 2011 will be his ability to garner redzone rushing attempts. If Teich and Greene steal too many scoring opportunities from him, then it will be hard for Proctor to have a breakout fantasy season. Dobbs accumulated 32 and 27 total touchdowns in his two years as the starter. Most of Proctor’s scoring should come on the ground, so it is vital that he gets his touches in the redzone if he hopes to score 25 total touchdowns.
Taylor McHargue, Rice (Long Shot)
McHargue spent most of the 2010 season as a back-up, only registering 21 pass attempts before he took over the starting job in time for the final two games of the season. During those final two games with East Carolina and UAB (not defensive powerhouses by any means), he averaged 250 total yards and 2.5 total touchdowns per game. Also note, McHargue is a dangerous runner. He rushed for 93 and 62 yards in those two starts.
What makes McHargue so intriguing is the Rice was a potent offense in the not so distant past. Can this sleeping fantasy giant wake up this season? They Owls return their top two rushers in Sam McGuffie and Jeremy Eddington. They also get their top two receiving targets back in wide receiver Vance McDonald and tight end Luke Wilson. With all five starters from the offensive line coming back, the chances of McHargue leading the Rice offense to new heights appear to be pretty good.
Alex Gillett, Eastern Michigan (Long Shot)
Gillett enjoyed his first year as the starting quarterback for the Eagles last fall. On a very young and developing team, he was able to muster 1,633 passing yards with 13 scores and 13 picks, as well as rush for 766 yards and five touchdowns. Gillett is an explosive boom-or-bust type of player. He erupted for four and five touchdown performances in a couple games, and was blanked with zero scores in three others. What made him rack up those big fantasy days was his ability to run around and make plays in games where they trailed badly and needed to score a bunch of points. We like to call this “garbage time,” when a starter accumulates stats against the back-ups from the other team.
You would have to expect a production bump in Gillett’s second season as the starter. He’s not a lock for 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing, but the possibility is out there. Running back Dwayne Priest is gone, and that frees up 716 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Gillett has his top wide receiver back back (Kinsman Thomas). If Gillett can improve his passing and steal some of the rushing stats that Priest had last season, then Gillett could put up some nice numbers in 2011. Also note: Gillett's non-conference slate actually has a couple intriguing possibilities when his Eagles face Howard and Alabama State.
Tyler Lantrip, Nevada (Long Shot)
Nevada has been a fantasy hotbed while Colin Kaepernick lined up under center. But in the post-Kaep era, it's now Tyler Lantrip's turn to run the Wolfpack's pistol offense. In back-up duty last fall he passed for 155 yards and one score, while running for 46 yards and one score. He is more of a passer than a true dual threat quarterback like Kaepernick was.
What direction the new offense takes is yet to be known. The running backs should steal some of the rushing production that the quarterback has had within the offense. But due to the option based running game of the offense, it’s impossible to assume the running backs will steal too much production. The very talented redshirt freshman Cody Fajardo is looking over Lantrip's shoulder. Fajardo has a strong chance to see some playing time this season, with the possibility of split quarterback time much like the way Florida utilized Chris Leak and Tim Tebow in 2006. There are many question marks involving Lantrip, but one thing can’t be ignored. The Nevada offense will produce, and whoever is under center will be racking up stats in this system.
College Fantasy Football Sleepers: Running Backs
BCS Running Backs
Bryce Brown, Kansas State (Our Guy)
Brown started his career at Tennessee in 2009 as a back-up to Montario Hardesty and was able to log 101 carries for 460 yards and three touchdowns. After having a falling out with the new coaching staff in the spring of 2010, Brown transferred to Kansas State. He spent the spring of 2011 battling John Hubert for the starting running back jog. Although no official starter has been named, most beat writers have identified that Brown will be the starter and the position battle is more of a motivational ploy.
Brown will take over for Daniel Thomas, who in his first year as a starter ran for 1,265 yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, plus 25 receptions for 257 yards in 2009. For Brown in 2011, the passing game will be going through a transformation. Although this should help him receive a good-sized workload, only two starting linemen come back from last season. Although Kansas State has byes in weeks two and thirteen, the non-conference schedule lays out nicely with Eastern Kentucky, Kent State, and Miami-FL.
While there are areas of concern for just how good Brown will be in 2011, there are just as many reasons to have us excited about a possible breakout season. The cliche summary on Brown: he has tremendous upside, but comes with a significant amount of risk.
Antwon Bailey, Syracuse (Our Guy)
Bailey will take over the starting running back position for Syracuse in 2011. As a back-up in 2010, he logged 114 carries for 554 yards and two rushing touchdowns, and he served as a receiving threat with 35 receptions for 306 yards and three receiving scores. The Syracuse offense utilizes a strong rushing attack. Last year, starter Delone Carter toted the rock 231 times in addition to Bailey’s 114 carries.
Syracuse has plenty of returning talent surrounding Bailey. Quarterback Ryan Nassib returns for his second year under center. Four of the five starting linemen from 2010 return, along with the top four passing targets. USC is the most difficult non-conference match-up, but Syracuse does host Wake Forrest, Rhode Island, and Toledo as well. Even once these juicy match-ups are over, the Big East doesn’t provide the same level of competition that other major conferences do. Syracuse might be a real surprise team in 2011 and you can be sure that Bailey will be in the thick of that success.
Jason Ford, Illinois (Undervalued)
Ford will look to take over the reins at running back for 2010 starter Mikel Leshoure. In 2010 Leshoure carried the ball 281 times for 1,697 yards and 17 touchdowns. Ford only tallied 99 carries last fall, but in the starting role Ford should easily exceed 225 carries. Illinois had a bounce-back season in 2010, and with many pieces returning they are poised for another productive season on offense.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase will build upon his freshman season success. Leading receiver A.J. Jenkins returns along with an offensive line that returns three starters. The first six games of the season are as cushy as it comes including non-conference match-ups against Arkansas State, South Dakota State, Arizona State, and Western Michigan. Ford has a bunch of upside . A minor injury this spring (bruised knee), and an arrest for a suspended license are things to monitor heading into August.
Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State (Undervalued)
Offensive mastermind Dana Holgerson came to Stillwater in 2010 and exceeded expectations. Randle served as a back-up rusher to starter Kendall Hunter. In the new offense, Hunter rushed for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns. While Hunter was the primary back in 2010, things could be slightly different in 2011. Both Randle and running back Jeremy Smith will split time in the backfield, but Randle is expected to receive the largest share of carries.
Although Holgerson has left for West Virginia, new offensive coordinator Todd Monken said he will run the same offense. The passing game returns intact with all 2010 starters at quarterback and receiver coming back. All five offensive linemen return as well, so there will be plenty of help around Randle. He will get two good tune-up games with Louisiana and Tulsa before hitting the Big 12 slate, but you will have to deal with two byes weeks on the fantasy schedule.
Perry Jones, Virginia (Undervalued)
Jones spent the 2010 season splitting carries with Keith Payne. The two split carries 60/40 with Payne getting the largest share, but it was Payne who hoarded all the touchdowns. Jones ran the ball 137 times for 645 yards and only one score. Jones brought a receiving element to the offense though, hauling in 31 receptions for 224 yards and one touchdown. 2010 was the first year for head coach Mike London and his new pro-style offense.
2011 shows signs of improvement for Virginia. Payne has graduated, back-up rusher Torrey Mack has left the team, and with no other experienced upperclassmen coming back things look to fall perfectly into Jones’ lap to be the primary back. At 5’8” 185 pounds he doesn’t have a big frame. The questions that concern fantasy owners are if Jones can take the pounding of a large workload, or if a bigger freshman will eat into Jones’ redzone scoring opportunities. The schedule unfolds nicely, and the opening games with Williams & Mary and Indiana will help fantasy owners gauge how much they can count on Jones the rest of the season.
Raymond Sanders, Kentucky (Undervalued)
Sanders has been biding his time until 2011 when he will take over as the new starting running back for the Wildcats. Derrick Locke was the starting running back in 2010 and during that season he rushed for 887 yards with ten rushing scores, while also collecting 34 receptions for 318 yards. Although Locke missed four games during 2010, he still averaged 18 carries a game. The coaching staff has said they expect Sanders to be able to handle a workload of 20 carries a game in 2011.
Sanders won the starting job outright in spring camp, but after camp ended he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage in his knee. He is expected to be ready to play for fall camp.
2011 will be a year of transition for the Wildcats. There will be changes at the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver positions. But there is experience upfront with four of the five offensive line starters coming back. Add in a cupcake non-conference schedule and this young offense will be able to warm-up before SEC play begins. Although there are concerns about Sanders’ knee surgery, there are still many reasons that make him a good late round draft day choice.
Lamar Miller, Miami, FL (Undervalued)
The 2010 season proved to be the last for head coach Randy Shannon. In an attempt to bring in more stability and control to the program, Miami hired Al Golden who did a masterful job of turning around the Temple program. Golden made a name for Temple as a team that played tough defense and controlled the tempo of the game through a devastating ground attack. This led eyes to be fixed on the running back battle that took place over the spring.
Big-time recruit Storm Johnson excited fans as the next great back, but disagreements with the new coaching staff led him to decide to transfer. Junior Mike James made a big splash in the spring, soaring up the depth chart. But many people believe that Miller will end up being the primary rusher. It’s a safe bet to believe that Miller and James will split carries in some capacity. If Miller is able to grab a substantial amount of those carries, he could have some serious fantasy value. Outside of a week two bye and Ohio State in week 3, the schedule looks nice for the ‘Canes. The distribution of carries during the Ohio State game should show who the coaches truly have trust in to deliver when it counts.
Brandon Williams, Oklahoma (Long Shot)
The running back position has gotten a bit messy with the departure of senior Demarco Murray. There are many names popping up as possible replacements, all of which lack any significant experience. Sophomore Ray Finch has the most experience, logging in 85 carries in 2010. Sophomore Brennan Clay and junior Jermie Calhoun have been on campus but have not been able to make the leap to the next level of play. Jonathan Miller came out of nowhere this spring to throw his hat in the ring. But the real wildcard in the mix is true freshman Brandon Williams.
Head Coach Bob Stoops has had no problem taking a talented true freshman and inserting him as the primary running back. This was done with DeMarco Murray back in 2007, and with Adrian Peterson in 2004. The fact none of the upperclassmen were able to separate from the pack over the course of the spring only helps strengthen the idea that Williams may evolve into the lead back over the course of 2011. If you are going to take a risk on Williams you will need to realize that he may not separate himself until several weeks into the season, thus taking patience on your part not to cut him loose too soon. The Missouri game in week four should be a good game to test the waters on Williams’ workload.
Davin Meggett, Maryland (Long Shot)
In 2010 Meggett and Da’Rel Scott split reps at the running back position each posting 120 or more carries. Despite having a major turnaround, the school decided to change coaching staffs this offseason. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton enters the mix. Although his last coaching job was as the offensive coordinator at LSU, the system he will lean on for Maryland is the offense he ran at Oregon from 2005-2006. Although there will be some aspect of the other offenses Crowton has run, it will be the fast-paced, high-tempo Oregon offense that’s at the heart of the new system for 2011.
Although Meggett will be the starter for 2011, back-up rusher D.J. Adams will still get his share of carries. Starting quarterback Danny O’Brien is back at the helm of the offense, but O’Brien has no highly experienced receivers to throw to. With two experienced rushers and four offensive line starters back in action, the offense should rely on the ground game as the receivers mature. But the schedule doesn’t provide a good match-up until weeks four and five when Maryland faces Temple and Towson.
Ryan Houston, North Carolina (Long Shot)
Houston will take over the starting tailback job after sitting out the 2010 season rehabbing from a knee injury. During the 2009 season Houston led the team in rushing with 191 carries for 713 yards and nine touchdowns. He reached those totals with back-up running back Shaun Draughn eating up 124 carries. Both the leading rushers from the 2010 season (Draughn and Johnny White) are now gone and Houston is the most established player remaining. After earning the starting job in spring camp, he suffered a broken scapula (that’s a shoulder blade, for the medically-challenged). He is expected to be ready to go in August for fall camp.
Although Houston should be ready to go in August, the question remains as to how much of a pounding he can take. People were expecting him to carry a heavy workload for the Tar Heels. But the injury puts doubts to the notion that Houston can handle a 25 carry/game workload. North Carolina has a nice set of games to start the season off with James Madison, Rutgers, Virginia, Georgia Tech, East Carolina, and Louisville. If Houston can show that he can handle a large workload in these early games, then he should salvage some fantasy value in the back half of the season when his schedule gets tougher.
Georgia Tech B-Back (Long Shot)
Georgia Tech has become a place to look for fantasy running backs since coach Paul Johnson brought his option attack to campus back in 2008. The B-Back in this scheme heart of the offense. Since Johnson took over Georgia Tech, the B-Backs have averaged 225 carries for 1.369 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns per year. 2010 starting B-Back Anthony Allen graduated, and all eyes were fixed on the battle that would transpire over the spring to name a new starting B-Back. The problem is, we still don’t know who that will be.
There are several guys in play. Senior Preston Lyons has been the most popular name to take over the position, but redshirt freshman Charles Perkins spent significant time running with the first team offense through spring camp. Sophomore David Sims made plays during the spring and garnered the attention of the coaches as well. The last player in the hunt is junior Richard Watson. The safe bet is to go with the senior Lyons, but Paul Johnson named Perkins the starter at the beginning of spring camp. That could make Perkins the real darkhorse contender of the group. Perkins was a heralded recruit and Johnson rarely plays motivation games with his players. He is as straight forward as they come.
It could be a rough year of transition for the Rambling Wreck. The offense does return six starters, but they have the least experienced offensive line in the ACC. Since the offense will be breaking in a new quarterback, the passing game won’t be able to make up for any shortcomings that the offensive line may generate. This will also be the fourth year Georgia Tech has run the option in the ACC. Teams have had time to figure it out and devise better game plans for stopping it.
Duane Bennett, Minnesota (Long Shot)
Bennett has become a staple in the Minnesota backfield for the past three years. 2010 was his best season to date, logging 123 carries for 529 yards and three touchdowns. He also proved to be a talented receiver hauling in 33 catches for 319 yards and one score. His stats were held in check as the coaching staff continued to rotate him with DeLeon Eskridge in the backfield. Over the off-season Jerry Kill was hired as the new head coach. He brings an effective shotgun based running offense with him that fantasy owners have become very familiar with at Northern Illinois.
Both Bennett and Eskridge battled for the starting job during spring camp, but over the summer Eskridge announced he was leaving the team. With no other major threats to eat into his production, Bennett became a fantasy sleeper over night. Before you picture the same numbers that Chad Spann has put up the past two years at Northern Illinois you must remember that we are talking about Minnesota here. Their talent level is not on par with the rest of the conference. They only have two starters coming back on the offensive line, and most first year coaches go through “growing pains” as they implement their new systems.
Minnesota does have some great early season match-ups with New Mexico State, Miami-OH, and North Dakota State. After that stretch you might have a hard time finding many good fantasy match-ups for Bennett.
Non-BCS Running Backs
Orleans Darkwa, Tulane (Our Guy)
Darkwa took over the starting job in 2010 and logged 184 carries for 925 yards and 11 touchdowns. He didn’t really get rolling until week seven when he began averaging 20+ carries a game. Over the final six games of the 2010 season he averaged 24 carries, 125 yards, and 1.2 touchdowns per game. Tulane was a young team in 2010, and they look to have more success in 2011.
The offense returns three starters from the offensive line, as well as quarterback Ryan Griffin and receivers Ryan Grant and DJ Banks. Tulane plays thirteen regular season games in 2011 since they are playing a game at Hawaii. There’s no bye weeks to deal with on the schedule. The toughest games on the schedule are Syracuse and Duke. With a juicy plate of games, returning talent to surround Darkwa, and a higher workload there’s plenty of bright signs for Darkwa’s 2011 fantasy prospects.
Editor's Note: Is Darkwa truly a "sleeper"? To the new college fantasy football player, yes. To the returning zealot, of course not. We list Darkwa here (as well as other top fantasy running backs Adonis Thomas and Lennon Creer) to draw attention to some of the smaller school prospects we are high on this season.
Adonis Thomas, Toledo (Our Guy)
Despite being Toledo’s leading rusher in 2010, Thomas had sporadic production throughout the season. Despite the up and down games he carried the ball 175 times for 1,098 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also a valuable receiving threat, catching 31 balls for 372 yards and two scores. He had senior rusher Morgan Williams siphoning off 81 carries from his production. But now Williams is gone and Thomas has firmly set his place in the backfield.
There’s a bunch of talent returning for 2011. Quarterbacks Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens split time last season and the two are still competing for the starting job. Stud receiver Eric Page comes back to create balance in the offense, and three offensive line starters are back as well. After the season opener with New Hampshire, there’s three tough match-ups with Ohio State, Boise State, and Syracuse. After this three game stretch the MAC schedule unfolds nicely.
Lennon Creer, Louisiana Tech (Our Guy)
Creer transferred into Louisiana Tech from Tennessee and ended up having a breakout 2010 season. As the heart and soul of the offense, he ran the ball 212 times for 1,181 yards and ten touchdowns on the ground while also racking up 25 receptions for 181 yards. He was the one bright spot in an offense that underachieved compared to many people’s expectations. Creer followed his strong 2010 season with a monster spring camp where he was virtually unstoppable.
There are some areas of concern. Only two starting linemen return from 2010. The quarterback position was sketchy in 2010, with multiple guys getting playing time. Colby Cameron started early in the year but was injured and missed the remainder of the season, but finds himself entering 2011 as the starting quarterback. Although there are starters coming back at receiver, they were less than impressive in 2010. Mississippi State and Ole Miss are the toughest match-ups on the schedule. Outside of those two games the rest of the schedule looks very favorable for Creer to have another strong season.
Pat Shed, UAB (Undervalued)
Shed saw his role in the offense grow as the 2010 season played out. He did not begin to average double digit carries until the week seven match-up with Mississippi State. During the final six games of 2010 his per game stats averaged at 18 carries for 88 yards and 0.5 touchdowns on the ground to go with his 5 receptions for 54 yards and 0.6 scores through the air. Add it all up, and you're talking about 22 touches for 142 total yards and one total touchdown a game over that span.
One major difference for 2011 could be the arrival of transfer running back Dontavious Jackson. Jackson was a highly touted recruit that originally signed with Georgia. After a DUI arrest he left the team and spent 2010 practicing on UAB’s scout team. Although there has been no word of split carries or Jackson taking over the starting role, he is a potential roadblock for Shed’s fantasy value. But with three starters returning on the offensive line, returning starters at quarterback and receiver, and a favorable late schedule; we still like Shed in leagues where you receive points for receptions.
Alfred Morris, Florida Atlantic (Undervalued)
Morris has become a bit of a forgotten name in the fantasy world. In 2010 his numbers weren’t great behind a young offensive line. He ran for a pedestrian 928 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2009, behind an experienced line upfront Morris ran for 1,392 yards and 11 touchdowns. To see just how much the offensive line hurt Morris in 2010 just look at his yards per attempt numbers. In 2009 he averaged 5.3 yards per attempt, then in 2010 that number dropped to 4.1 yards per attempt.
But 2011 looks to be a year for Morris to return to his old self. The offensive line returns four starters from last season. As the Owls are breaking in a new quarterback and receiving corps, the coaches are likely to place the offense on Morris’ capable back.
Although we like Morris to have a bounce-back season, if you draft him you must realize he will be sitting on your bench for the entire month of September. FAU opens up at Florida, at Michigan State, week three bye, then at Auburn. Outside of a week nine bye, the rest of the schedule is filled with defenses for Morris to smash his way through.
Mike Ball, Nevada (Long Shot)
Ball was a sparingly used back-up rusher in 2010 for the Wolf Pack. Vai Taua and Colin Kaepernick were hoarding all the offensive production. Now those two have graduated and the competition is on between Ball and Lampford Mark to become the starting running back. Both backs split time during spring camp, and it looks like this battle will last well into fall camp. It’s more than likely that a starter will be named after your fantasy draft has completed.
As we view this situation prior to August camp, we see Ball as a bit of a boom or bust candidate for 2011. By all accounts, Ball is more explosive than Mark, but it is concerning that he has not been able to break through and clearly surpass him over the past couple years. There are also a couple freshman running backs that could get a look.
If Ball does entrench himself as the primary back, you can expect him easily surpass the 1,000 yard, 10 touchdown mark. But there is the potential for both Ball and Mark to split reps. In 2009 Vai Taua and Luke Lippincott split carries. During that season Taua ran for 1,345 yards and 10 scores while Lippincott ran for 1,034 yards and nine scores. It would be difficult for Ball and Mark to match these stats in 2011 with a new quarterback and only one starting receiver coming back.
Ball is a tough guy to categorize in our sleeper system at the moment. If he clearly wins the job during August camp, his status may change. Until then, we'll consider him a mid-round Long Shot.
Jasmin Hopkins, Northern Illinois (Long Shot)
During the 2010 season Hopkins was one of four back-up running backs (38 rushes, 370 yards and 2 touchdowns). Senior Chad Spann was the dominant rusher, but with his departure the starting job has opened up. The spring saw plenty of competition, but no solid starter was named. Hopkins was one of four running backs to carry the ball ten or more times in the spring game.
With all five starting linemen returning in 2011, there will be plenty of running room for the backs. Quarterback Chandler Harnish comes back after the best season he has had at Northern Illinois, and he will have his top three passing targets from 2010 back in action too.
A new coaching staff has taken over for Jerry Kill who left to take the head coaching job at Minnesota. Matt Canada has come in as the new offensive coordinator. He spent the last four seasons as the offensive coordinator at Indiana. With the change in offensive systems fantasy owners must realize that the offense will open up and throw much more then they had in years past. Matt Canada repeatedly used a running back by committee (RBBC) approach while at Indiana. If Hopkins is unable to firmly separate himself in fall camp, then we may very well see a RBBC situation with NIU. But if Hopkins can emerge in fall camp he has the potential to make some waives in 2011.
Ryan Bass, Idaho (Long Shot)
Bass started his playing career at Arizona State, but after failing to lock down the starting job he decided to transfer to Idaho. He sat out 2010 due to NCAA rules, but he will be ready to compete for the starting job in 2011. But Idaho has one of the deepest backfields in the WAC. Princeton McCarty logged 89 carries in 2010 and looks to be the man to unseat for the starting job. Troy Vital had a strong spring and he will be in the mix as well. Bass, McCarty, and Vital battled it out over spring camp but no solid starter was named. In the spring game Bass had twice as many carries as the next best back.
The Idaho offense is rebuilding at quarterback after Nathan Enderle graduated. Three of the top four receivers from 2010 have moved on, and two starters from the offensive line graduated. Fantasy owners will have to deal with two bye weeks. Outside of match-ups with Texas A&M and Virginia, the rest of the schedule has plenty of fantasy worthy match-ups.
The first question is who will emerge as the starting running back in fall camp? Bass has all the tools to win the job. The second question is how good will the offense be without Nathan Enderle? If the Vandals struggle to move the ball in the air, then defenses will be able to key on Bass and load up to stop the run. If Idaho can find a passing game, and if Bass emerges as the starter, then he will find himself fantasy relevant as the season plays out.
BCS Wide Receivers
Kendall Wright, Baylor (Our Guy)
Wright has improved his receiving stats each year on campus, taking big steps up each season. Last fall, he caught 78 balls for 952 yards and 7 touchdowns.
The 5’10 190-pound junior absolutely tore it up during spring ball as he and star quarterback Robert Griffin were in complete rhythm. The Baylor offense looks to be outstanding in 2011 as they return nine starters.
The schedule includes non-conference games against TCU, Stephen F. Austin and Rice, but Baylor does have two annoying bye weeks to deal with.
Markus Wheaton, Oregon State (Our Guy)
When James Rodgers went down to injury on the Boise Blue Turf in Week 3, Markus Wheaton stepped up to fill the void. He caught 55 balls for 675 yards and 4 touchdowns, while adding 27 rushes for 220 yards and 2 scores.
Rodgers is back, but after two knee surgeries he is likely to be a shell of himself, which makes Wheaton the No. 1 man in Corvallis. Quarterback Ryan Katz returns and he’ll likely be asked to pass the ball more since running back stud Jacquizz Rodgers opted for the NFL.
Schedule-wise, the Beavers avoid USC in Pac-12 play, but they face Wisconsin on the road in Week 2 (other non-conference games include home dates with Sacramento State and BYU).
Marquess Wilson, Washington State (Our Guy)
Wilson had a great freshman season in 2010, catching 55 balls for 1,006 yards and 6 touchdowns. His 84 receiving yards per game was second in the Pac-10 to Arizona’s Juron Criner.
There are a couple reasons to believe that Wilson will improve his stats in 2011. First, Wilson seemingly hit a wall in November, finishing the season with just 9 catches in his final three games. With a full off-season under his belt, he should be in better shape to withstand the Pac-12 grind.
Secondly, Wilson’s capable quarterback, Jeff Tuel, returns. Finally, Wazzu’s non-conference schedule sets up nicely with games against Idaho State, UNLV and San Diego State.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee (Undervalued)
Hunter only snagged 16 balls last year, but 7 of them went for touchdowns. Not bad for a freshman debut.
With Tennessee’s leading receivers from 2010, Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones, moving on, Hunter and fellow sophomore Da’Rick Rogers will take over the starting gigs. They’ll be catching balls from yet another second year phenom in Tyler Bray.
While Hunter surely won’t repeat his amazing 25.9 yards per catch average, a 1,000 yard, 10 touchdown performance is attainable. The Vols non-conference schedule should help him get there (Montana, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Middle Tennessee).
Chris Owusu, Stanford (Undervalued)
This explosive Cardinal wideout just couldn’t stay off the injury report last year. He missed six games - sprinkled throughout the season - driving fantasy owners mad. Among his injuries was a nasty concussion and various knee ailments.
Owusu is 100 percent healthy at the moment, and if he can stay that way he is primed for a huge year as Andrew Luck's big-play threat.
Stanford’s top two receivers from 2010 are gone – the duo of Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen combined for 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns. The door is wide open for Owusu to produce, he just needs to stay healthy.
Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (Undervalued)
Stills caught 61 balls for 786 yards and 5 scores in 2010. Not bad for a freshman. Look for those numbers to go up with an entire off-season under his belt.
As is the case with most freshman, Stills was far more productive in the second half of the season as he adapted to the college game. With defenses game-planning to stop star quarterback Landry Jones and wideout Ryan Broyles, Stills should be able to find plenty of space to run free in defensive backfields.
Mike Shanahan, Pittsburgh (Long Shot)
No matter who is coaching the Panthers, they always seem to produce quality fantasy wide receivers. This year is no different.
Ex-Tulsa head coach Todd Graham is now at the helm, and he plans to throw the pigskin all over the Steel City.
Shanahan is a big 6’5, 220-pound target who logged 589 yards last year playing second-fiddle to Jonathan Baldwin. Shanahan had a few huge spring scrimmages performances that could be a harbinger of things to come. He will have to compete for touches with electric wide receiver Devin Street.
Kenbrell Thompkins, Cincinnati (Long Shot)
Thompkins was a highly-touted receiver out of high school, originally signing with Tennessee. Once Lane Kiffin bolted out of Knoxville, Thompkins followed suit. He sat out last fall per NCAA rules.
With star wideout Armon Binns moving on, the 6’1, 196-pounder will start opposite D.J. Woods this fall. The Bearcats’ system has enough power to produce two solid fantasy wide receivers (ie. Binns and Woods in 2010, Gilyard and Binns in 2009, Gilyard and Goodman in 2008).
With Zach Collaros back at quarterback, in year two under head coach Butch Jones, Thompkins could make a big splash in the Big East in 2011.
Josh Huff, Oregon (Long Shot)
Oregon is known for their devastating rushing game, but their passing game is also extremely effective.
Last fall the team passed for 3,178 yards and 31 scores. Half of that production is lost with the graduation of wide receiver Jeff Maehl (1,076 yards, 12 touchdowns) and tight end D.J. Davis (470 yards, 3 touchdowns). There is ample opportunity for someone to step up and fill the void.
Huff is an electric playmaker who can stretch the defense. In very limited action, he rushed the ball 12 times for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns, and also caught 19 passes for 303 yards and 3 scores. With an expanded role, Huff should be able to put up respectable fantasy stats in 2011. But how much of an opportunity will he get? Huff will battle Lavasier Tuinei and Rashaan Vaughn for touches, which is why he must be considered a long shot sleeper.
The West Virginia Guys (Long Shots)
Tavon Austin is the hands-down top fantasy wide receiver prospect for the Mountaineers. But who will be the No. 2 receiving threat in this offense? It depends on who you ask.
Here are the possibilities: Stedman Bailey, Brad Starks, Tyler Urban, Ivan McCartney, Devon Brown and Ryan Nehlen. Enough names for you? The post-spring depth chart, for what it’s worth, lists Bailey, Austin, Urban and Nehlen as the starters.
New head coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense likes to spread the ball around, which is both a good and a bad thing. Last season at Oklahoma State, the second-leading receiver was Josh Cooper with 68 catches for 736 yards and 5 scores. Not exactly inspiring numbers. But in 2009, Holgorsen produced three 1,000 yard receivers at running the high-flying Houston offense.
If we were to take a gamble on one of these prospects right now, it would be Bailey by process of elimination as there is something to nitpick about all of the other options. Note: if Tyler Urban is listed as a tight end in your league, he is a must-have. The university lists him as a wide receiver.
Roy Roundtree, Michigan (Long Shot)
In Rich Rodriguez’s gimmicky spread offense, Roundtree caught 72 balls for 935 yard and 7 touchdowns. With a more traditional scheme in place this fall under new coach Brady Hoke, look for the passing game to stretch the field more.
Last year at San Diego State, Hoke’s top two receivers hauled in 1,352 ad 1,220 yards respectively with 19.6 and 18.2 yards per catch averages. If Roundtree can bump his number up from last year’s 13.0, he could find himself in the same stratosphere. Of course, much of his success will depend up the accuracy of quarterback Denard Robinson, who struggled in the spring.
The reason Roundtree is listed as a long shot here is due to the presence of senior wide receivers Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway. Both have the talent to steal valuable looks away from Roundtree, especially with a new coaching staff mixing up the playcalling this fall.
Non-BCS Wide Receivers
Cody Wilson, Central Michigan (Our Guy)
For fantasy owners in a Points Per Reception league, take note of the name Cody Wilson. 2010 was a transition year for Central Michigan as they broke in a new coach, new offense, and all new skill position players on offense. Despite the growing pains with all the change, Wilson caught 83 balls for 1,137 yards and five touchdowns. With quarterback Ryan Radcliff back for his second year as the starter, you can expect a jump in Wilson’s touchdown total for 2011.
In a year where there are few quarterbacks returning in the MAC, look for big things from this offense in 2011. Three starters return up front and at the skill positions running back Parris Cotton returners alongside Radcliff. There’s three big schools on the schedule in Kentucky, Michigan State, and NC State; but outside of those games the grass gets much greener. The best patch of the schedule is after the NC State game where from weeks 7-12 every match-up is a lock.
Darius Bright, Hawaii (Our Guy)
It’s no secret that the Hawaii offense is a fantasy destination year-in and year-out. Like many years before, Hawaii is going through massive personnel changes. Quarterback Bryant Moniz returns but that’s just about it. The wide receiver core has been depleted, and the search for the next big star has begun. Although you could follow last year’s stats as a guideline, the changes within the offense are so massive that last year’s stats no longer apply, it’s a completely new ballgame now.
The coveted receiver spot within the Hawaii offense is the deep threat-outside receiver position that was filled by Greg Salas last season. This season its looks like Darius Bright might be the guy to fill those shoes. Many of the other receivers lack the big play ability, or speed necessary of stressing a defense down the field. Once Hawaii can clear their first two games with Colorado and Washington, it will be smooth sailing from there on out. Although there is plenty of risky with drafting Bright early, there is also plenty of upside.
Geraldo Boldewijn, Boise State (Our Guy)
Mr. Boldewijn was formerly known as Geraldo Hiwatt. In July he formally changed his last name to Boldewijn. Be sure to learn both these names since there’s bound to be confusion come draft day when you’re trying to find this guy. So, who is this mystery man with two names? He’s probably the biggest playmaker that Boise State has at receiver for 2011. Why is this important? Let’s see, they just lost their top two receivers to the NFL draft and Boise has very little game tested depth coming back.
Wide receiver is the one area of concern in the Boise State offense. Kellen Moore comes back for his senior season to lead the offense. Doug Martin will sprearhead the ground game and Tyler Shoemaker returns to provide some game experience to the receiver corps. Boise State opens with a tough neutral site game with Georgia, and after that they do have two byes in weeks two and nine. It’s just a matter of time before everyone else catches up with how good Boldewijn will be in 2011.
Darius Johnson, SMU (Undervalued)
Aldrick Robinson was the all-world receiver for SMU in 2010. He totaled 65 catches for 1,301 yards and 14 touchdowns. Robinson has now moved onto the Washington Redskins and the search for the next go-to has begun. There’s one minor problem, there may not be a single go-to guy in 2011. In 2010 there were two top receivers right behind Robinson in the stat column. Cole Beasely is the shifty receiver that caught 87 passes for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns while Darius Johnson was right behind him with 78 receptions for 845 yards and six touchdowns. Neither of these guys have the explosiveness that Robinson processed, but they each bring a skill set to the offense.
What is good for the offense is that there’s plenty of returning starters coming back. Quarterback Kyle Padron returns for another season at the helm of the SMU offense. Behind him he will have Zach Line at running back who is coming off of a breakout 2010 campaign. With four returning offensive line starters, it’s easy to see that the only big shoes to fill in the offense are Robinson’s. Who exactly can emerge is hard to tell. But Johnson is the more physically talented of the two (Johnson & Beasley). The coaches have just been waiting for him to emerge from his shell and become the big play guy they believe he can be.
Kelvin Bolden, Southern Miss (Undervalued)
Southern Miss might possibly be the most loaded team in Conference USA for 2011. They return more starters than any other team, and their offense returns almost totally intact. The biggest piece of the offensive puzzle that was lost for 2011 was wide receiver DeAndre Brown. But after his stellar freshman season, Brown was held in check due to injuries and bad luck. This helped pave the way for others to step up within the offense. One of the receivers that took advantage of this opportunity was Bolden.
In 2010 Bolden accounted for 46 receptions for 722 yards and six scores. These numbers are bound to go up in 2011 with quarterback Austin Davis playing out his senior year. Bolden and Davis built a rapport in 2010, and that will be used to cultivate Bolden into the new primary weapon in the passing attack. Southern Miss has one of the best schedules in the country, with the toughest non-conference game being against Virginia. Bolden looks to be a lock as a top-flight fantasy receiver in 2011 and could approach the ten touchdown mark.
Rishard Matthews, Nevada (Undervalued)
Nevada enjoyed one of the best seasons in school history in 2010. They were rich in talent and the wins followed suit. The main orchestrators of that season’s success have now moved on, and 2011 looks to be a difficult rebuilding year for the Wolfpack. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, running backs Vai Taua, and tight end Virgil Green are all gone. During the offseason, returning receiver Brandon Wimberly was shot and due to complications from that incident it looks like his playing career is done. So who’s left for the Wolfpack to lead the 2011 offense?
Rishard Matthews stands alone as the returning starter who brings talent and game experience to the 2011 offense. He snagged 56 calls for 879 yards and 5 touchdowns last fall. Although Nevada will be breaking in a new quarterback, expect to see Matthews’ number called over and over again. The schedule is not kind to Nevada early, with only one good match-up in September - a week three match-up with San Jose State. They won’t see another good match-up until week six when UNLV comes to town. After that point it will be smooth sailing for Matthews and company.
Michael Bowman, East Carolina (Long Shot)
Last fall, Dwayne Harris caught 101 balls for 1,123 yards and 10 scores, and also chipped in with 16 carries for 104 rushing yards. Michael Bowman was a contributor as well, snagging 47 balls for 434 yards and 3 scores (3 rushes for 25 yards). With Harris now a member of the Dallas Cowboys, Bowman will take over his vacated position in the slot. But just because Bowman is playing the same position doesn’t mean he’ll duplicate (or approach) Harris’ outstanding 2010 stats.
Bowman tips the scales at 165 pounds – 40 pounds lighter than Harris’ playing weight in 2010. Can he withstand the pounding of catching all of those mid-range passes over the middle? It's also worth noting that Harris was the unquestioned No. 1 receiving target heading into 2010. The East Carolina coaching staff designed game plans around getting him the ball. That is not the case with Bowman. Wide receiver Lance Lewis is poised to be The Man in 2011.
Still, there are plenty of balls to go around in the Pirates’ version of the Air Raid offense. Bowman is a nice sleeper option. Just keep your expectations in check when comparing him to a special talent like Dwayne Harris.
Corey Johnson, Troy (Long Shot)
Not only does Troy lose their three leading receivers from a year ago, including the irreplaceable Jerrel Jernigan, but two guys expected to start this year (Chip Reeves and Jamel Johnson) were ruled academically ineligible for 2011. Veteran Brett Moncrief had foot surgery but is expected to be ready by August That leaves JUCO transfer Corey Johnson as a possible top target for quarterback Corey Robinson. Johnson showed some promise this spring working out of the inside slot (H) position, Jernigan’s old spot. He is the brother of former USC wide receiver Ronald Johnson, so the bloodlines are there.
It’s obvious the system is fantasy friendly. The Troy offense threw for 3,859 yards a year ago. Jernigan racked up 335 rushing yards, caught 84 balls for 822 yards, and totaled 9 touchdowns. While Johnson isn’t likely to match Jernigan’s production, if he can turn out to be Robinson’s go-to guy, he will hold ample fantasy value.
Cody Hoffman, BYU (Long Shot)
Hoffman raised many eyebrows in the New Mexico Bowl when he exploded for 8 catches, 137 yards and 3 touchdowns. The freshman wasn’t dominant for the entire year, though. In fact, he was largely invisible for most of the year. In all, Hoffman tallied a modest 527 receiving yards and 7 scores on the year. Hoffman is a big target at 6’4 and 205 yards, making him a dangerous red zone threat for rising quarterback Jake Heaps. And the offense should be much improved in 2011.
Last year, the team averaged a paltry 198 passing yards per game. Not surprising considering they were breaking in a rookie at quarterback. In the previous six years, the team averaged 281, 310, 298, 324, 310, and 280 yards per game. What does this mean? It means BYU’s passing game should be much improved in 2011, and Hoffman could be one of the benefactors. It is worth noting that Hoffman was arrested back in May for failing to pay a $90 speeding ticket. Normally, this kind of incident would be no big deal, but because he plays under the BYU conduct code, he would be smart to keep things on the straight and narrow
Billy Ray Stutzman and Jeremiah Ostrowski, Hawaii (Long Shot)
It’s been well documented on this site how we feel about Warrior wide receivers Darius Bright and Royce Pollard. Both are primed for big seasons. Can Hawaii produce a third fantasy wide receiver option? When you throw for 5,520 yards in a season like Hawaii did in 2010, the opportunity is certainly there. Remember, Pollard caught 64 balls for 901 yards and 7 scores as a WR3.
The projected third and fourth starting receivers in 2011 are Billy Ray Stutzman and Jeremiah Ostrowski. Stutzman is slender sophomore at 6’0 and 165 and will play the inside Z position. The coaches thought enough of him to see time as a freshman, where he caught 13 balls for 130 yards and a score. The 5’9 175-pound Ostrowski will work in the slot. He possesses excellent quickness as evidenced by winning the starting point guard spot on the basketball team. Don’t be surprised if he gets the opportunity to rush the ball a little bit. Both of these prospects have the ability to step up and knock either Pollard or Bright off their perch atop the receiving totem pole. They are both worth a roll of the dice as a deep sleeper.
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